How the LA Clippers can still have a successful road trip

All hope may seem lost after the LA Clippers were dominated by the Milwaukee Bucks. We’re here to tell you why that isn’t the case.

The LA Clippers were completely dominated Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, and it wasn’t pretty. Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s team led by as many as 41 points, forcing Doc Rivers to send in the reserves with nearly nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

It was the last way that any of us expected this six-game road trip to begin, and it left a lot of fans wondering what would happen next.

Including tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards, the LA Clippers will play five of the next seven nights, with back-to-backs beginning an ending the trip. It’s hardly an ideal stretch of the schedule for a team that’s gone just 3-6 on the road so far this season, but there’s no place to go but up after losing the opening contest in Milwaukee.

Before the trip began, I thought about what we could consider a “successful” trip. I was optimistic about the team’s chances against the Bucks, given Milwaukee topped LA earlier this season by just five points in a game that neither Kawhi Leonard nor Paul George played in.

But other tough contests — the second game of a back-to-back against the Indiana Pacers and an emotional matchup with the Toronto Raptors — I wasn’t as excited about. I figured the Clippers would win four of their six on the road and return home with a .500 record on the road at 7-7.

Fortunately, that is still possible for the LA Clippers to achieve.

It’d be best if they forgot about the Bucks game and considered tonight’s meeting with the Wizards the start of a new trip. And while Washington is no pushover — they boast the league’s fourth-ranked offense — we shouldn’t forget that the Clippers put up 150 points on their bottom-feeding defense last Sunday. LA will face some resistance, but this one should be over relatively early.

Monday night’s meeting with the Pacers could be a difficult one. Indiana has one of the best defensive units in the league, and the Clippers (presumably) won’t have Leonard. It’ll also be the third time that George has faced his former team on the road, and Indiana fans are still salty about his departure.

I could see this one going either way, and it largely depends on what happens vs Washington. If the Clippers can build a significant lead early on and allow their stars to spend at least 20 minutes off the floor, then energy may not be a big issue against Indiana — especially since the Pacers play at one of the slower paces in the league. However, if George, Leonard, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams are the guys closing this one out, then Indy could have the edge.

The Clippers will get Tuesday off before traveling to Toronto for a Wednesday night showdown with Leonard’s former Raptors.

It should be an emotional night for both him and Raptors fans, who were (mostly) supportive of his decision this summer. Leonard will get his championship ring and get a chance to play for the team he won a title with last season, which could power him to one of his best performances of the season.

However, the Raptors are going to want this game, and they’re going to want it bad. They’ve been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this season, and after suffering a 10-point loss to the Clippers earlier this season, they’ll want to use the opportunity to show that they can still win big games without Leonard. The fact that this one will be shown on ESPN only adds to that.

The Clippers can certainly win this one, but I’ll probably go into it under the assumption that they won’t.

From there, things will lighten up a bit for LA. They’ll take on the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night, a top-heavy, middle-of-the-pack team. Karl-Anthony Towns will cause some issues in the paint and from outside, where he’s shooting 43.4 percent this season, but the Clippers are well-equipped to handle the rest of this squad. Andrew Wiggins has been much better this season, but LA’s defense should give him trouble.

Minnesota is one of the worst teams at defending the three as well, and with Landry Shamet and JaMychal Green potentially making returns by then, the Clippers could come out firing.

LA will end the trip against the Chicago Bulls, which is another that they should win. The Bulls have struggled to score all season long and rank 28th in offensive rating, and all of their wins have come against some of the worst teams in the league. They’ve topped the Memphis Grizzlies and Detroit Pistons twice each, the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings.

That said, the Clippers are going to be exhausted by the time this game comes around. Playing five games in seven nights is a daunting task, and there’s a reason the league made an effort to reduce the number of times they happen for each team. This is LA’s only occurrence all season.

Fortunately, the Bulls will also be playing their fifth game in seven nights next Saturday, which means this game has the potential to be one of the ugliest and sloppiest we’ve seen this season.

The path to .500 on the road is going to be tough, but if the LA Clippers can get their offense going and keep the minutes down for their stars, it’s certainly something they can achieve.